Better Days

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986 CBS

DAD: Harry Clooney (Dick O’Neill) / Grandfather – Widower

DAD’S JOB: Retired

KIDS: Brian McGuire (Raphael Sbarge)

WHERE’S MOM?: Out in California with Dad

STAND-IN "MOM": Possibly Miss Winners (Randee Heller) / English teacher

A show like this is what makes writing about 80’s Single Dads shows SO difficult. Does it count if Mom and Dad are alive, but the single male parent around supports and cares for the child? My ruling? Yes!

California surf-dude teen Harry Clooney got forced to move to Brooklyn and live with his grandfather, all because his dad lost his job and couldn’t afford to raise Harry out west. So, we wind up with East Coast/West Coast culture clash, and wacky hijinks ensue. Well, they ensued for the month of October, 1986, and then CBS decided it would rather have ratings than Harry Clooney. So, Better Days had its final day just two days before Halloween.

Defenders of the Earth

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986 Syndicated

DAD #1: Flash Gordon / unknown

DAD #1’S JOB: Crimefighter

KIDS #1: Rick Gordon

WHERE’S MOM #1?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM" #1: Unknown

DAD #2: Mandrake/ unknown

DAD #2’S JOB: Crimefighting Magician

KIDS #2: Kshin

WHERE’S MOM #2?: Dead – Dad’s dead too

STAND-IN "MOM" #2: Unknown

DAD #3: Lothar / unknown

DAD #3’S JOB: Crimefighting Magician’s Sidekick

KIDS #3: Lothar, Jr. (L.J.)

WHERE’S MOM #3?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM" #3: Unknown

DAD #4: The Phantom / Unknown

DAD #4’S JOB: Crimefighter

KIDS #4: Jedda

WHERE’S MOM #4?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM" #4: Unknown

This cartoon easily snags the "Most TV Single Dads in a Single Series" award. FOUR- count ‘ em – FOUR crimefighting Single Dad superheros teamed up with their kids on this short-lived syndicated series. Basically, a great way for Creators Features Syndicate to turn their comic strip characters into television stars in one swoop.

Update: Alert Viewer Bianca fills us in with details about Rick Gordon’s mom – – "I just wanted to let you know that under your Defenders of the Earth listing, the Mom#1 info should be ‘dead’ (you have ‘unknown’). Rick Gordon’s mom died in one of the first episodes if not the first episode. Ming the Merciless killed her on the planet Mongo, I think while trying to transfer information out of her brain to find out where Flash was or to get some other type of information that she wouldn’t tell him."

A tap on the Avery Brooks Memorial Communicator goes to Bianca the Gordon info. Thanks, Bianca!

Captain Caveman

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986 ABC

DAD: Captain Caveman ( voice of Mel Blanc) / apparently a bachelor

DAD’S JOB: Crimefighting Neanderthal

KIDS: Cavey Jr. (voice of Charlie Adler) (10-ish)

WHERE’S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

This series shouldn’t be confused with 1977’s Captain Caveman & the Teen Angels, an earlier venture of Captain Caveman. Completely encased inside episodes of Flintstone Kids, this series-within-a-series was not too dissimilar to the format of The Itchy & Scratchy Show on The Simpsons. If memory serves, this show was young Fred Flintstone’s favorite. Another paycheck for Mr. Blanc, in any case.

A flap of the Fran Drescher Memorial Apron to Barry H. for the heads-up on this show. Thanks, Barry!


Jim 1980s

Aired: 1985 ABC

DAD: Brodie Hollister (William Smith) / widower

DAD’S JOB: Rancher/Crimefighter

KIDS: Sutton Hollister (J. Eddie Peck) (teens)


STAND-IN "MOM": Cally Oaks (Meg Ryan) / Western Gal

If you were falling out of an airplane and you had to yell out what this show was like, you’d say, "IT’S LIKE BATMAN, BUT OUT IN THE WILD WESSSSSST!!!" Brodie and Sutton were secret crime fighters, who teamed up with a bunch of locals in the county of Wildside, California to battle evil and such. Hey, and Meg Ryan was one of the locals. Cool, huh?


Jim 1980s

Aired: 1985 CBS

DAD: Joey Nathan (Daniel Stern) / Single


KIDS: Dylan Nathan (Mikey Viso) (8)

WHERE’S MOM?: Don’t know.

STAND-IN "MOM": Don’t know.

This show didn’t focus on the Single Dad as the main character. Joey was one of an ensemble of characters within a larger story of kids from the 60’s who grew up and returned to their home town. You could say this show was a lot like the ABC series, thirtysomething, except that this show appeared two years before the ABC show. I guess thirtysomething is like this show, then. So, that being the case, Daniel Stern played the Peter Horton role of the easy-going "best buddy" of the main characters.

Guess the thirty-something audience wasn’t ready to watch a show like this yet. The series cratered in the ratings and was buried in two months.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1983-94 Syndicated

DAD: Duncan (Alan Oppenheimer) / Single

DAD’S JOB: Man-At-Arms for Castle Grayskull

KIDS: Teela (Linda Gary) (20-ish)

WHERE’S MOM?: Nearby, in disguise

STAND-IN "MOM": Sorceress (arguable), or possibly Queen Marlena / Local Royalty

Confession: I was smitten with Teela. Apparently, so were many other guys, because there were no Teela action figures on the shelves when this show aired.

Here’s the scoop – – Teela was the daughter of the sorceress Teelina, and was given to Duncan by the sorceress. Duncan’s job (as Man-at-Arms) was basically to be the official bouncer of Castle Grayskull. Teela grew up to be the bodyguard of Prince Adam of Grayskull. Adam, of course, was the Clark Kent of He-Man, so he didn’t really need to HAVE a bodyguard. At least not one with a metal bodysuit.

A tip of the Andy Griffith Memorial Sheriff’s Hat to John Doyle for the heads-up on He-Man. Thanks, John!

Zorro and Son

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1983 CBS

DAD: Don Diego de la Vega (Henry Darrow) / Bachelor(?)

DAD’S JOB: Gay Blade

KIDS: Don Carlos de la Vega (Paul Regina) (teens?)

WHERE’S MOM?: unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Bernardo (Bill Dana) / Housekeeper

How could you not like a Single Dad show where the housekeeper is played by Mr. Jose Jimenez himself?

An extremely short-lived show (3 months), this rendition of the Zorro legend was tongue-in-cheek — almost as campy as the 60’s Batman series. Zorro, now a little too old for buckling his swash, teams up with his "girl-crazy" son to right wrongs and make nice for the people of Mexican-era L.A. Wacky guest stars and cool supporting cast members populated this show — my favorite being one of the sidekicks of the evil Commandante Pico, played by John Moschitta. Moschitta made his name in the 80’s by being the "Motor Mouth" guy in the Wendy’s/Federal Express/Galoob MicroMachines commercials.

Gimme a Break!

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1981-87 NBC

DAD: Carl Kanisky (Dolph Sweet) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Police Chief

KIDS: Katie (17), Julie (15), and Samantha (12)

WHERE’S MOM?: Died just before series started

STAND-IN "MOM": Nellie Ruth ("Nell") Harper (Nell Carter)

The focus in this show is in the stand-in mom, played by Nell Carter. Nell took care of the three girls, acting as a surrogate mother for them, while sparring with Police Chief Kanisky, their dad.

This show isn’t that much different from Hazel, if you leave out the mom.

A flap of the Lorne Greene Memorial Leather Vest at Jo Ann Veneziano ( for the information about the girls’ ages. Thanks, Jo Ann!

Who’s the Boss?

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1984-93 ABC

DAD: Tony Micelli (Tony Danza) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Housekeeper

KIDS: Samantha (11)

WHERE’S MOM?: She’s DEAD! (See notes below)

STAND-IN "MOM": Angela Bower (Judith Light)

Update: 12/15/96: Over the past few months, I’ve been getting lots of mail about Sam’s mom being alive. Supposedly there’s some single episode where Sam’s mom turns up, talks to Tony, then Tony convinces her to leave without contacting Sam. I have never seen this episode. Many WTB fanatics have told me they’ve never seen the episode. So, I wrote the best source I could contact: Alyssa Milano(!)

Here is her reply:

Hi Jim;

Tony’s wife was written into WTB as being dead….that’s was why Tony took the job in the first place…so Sam would have a women figure in her life….happy holidays.


Case closed.

Update: Or is it? Here’s additional info from Alert Viewer ‘Majenta’:

Hi! I know, you said "Case closed," but I remember the episode of "WTB?" people may be thinking about. I think it’s the one where Samantha sits for an oil painting as a gift to Tony. Tony remembers that his wife was artistic, and somehow he gets the idea that while he was on the road with his baseball team, his wife might have had an affair with an artist. He has a casual talk with Samantha while they’re shooting hoops and he asks what she and Mom used to do for fun all those times when it was just the two of them. Samantha mentions things like playing Barbies, just the 2 of them or with a friend of Sam’s who liked to dress Ken in Barbie’s clothes, etc. Tony says, "Did you and Mom ever dress up and go out?" Samantha says they used to visit their neighbor Mrs. Rossini a lot, and sometimes Samantha would spend the night there. She didn’t know where Mom went, but she did know that Mom never turned up until morning. Well, that sounds dodgy, doesn’t it? He goes to Mrs. Rossini, who says Mom (Marie) had been taking an art class and sometimes it broke up pretty late, so why drag Samantha out of sleep to lug her home when Mrs R. didn’t mind keeping her for the night?

Maybe that’s the one everybody’s thinking of. If so, I’m happy to help. Bye, and thanks for your site!

Down to Earth

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1984-87 TBS

DAD:Richard Preston (Stephen Johnson [1984], then Dick Sargent [1984-87]) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Realtor

KIDS: Duane (David Kaufmann)(14), Elizabeth “Lissy” (Kyle Richards)(11) , J.J. (Randy Josselyn)(10)

WHERE’S MOM?: Quite Dead.

STAND-IN "MOM":Ethel MacDoogan (Carol Mansell) / Ex-flapper, now a housekeeper on Earth and an angel who’s working her way up to winged status

Syndicated sitcom about a flapper who was run over by a trolley in 1925, then sent back to Earth 60 years later to help out a TV Single Dad family in order to earn her wings. Similar to Clarence’s job in "It’s a Wonderful Life.". J.J. Preston wished for an angel to help the family and his prayers were answered when Ethel arrived. In return, Ethel orders him to keep her true identity a secret.

HUGE tip of the Andy Griffith Memorial Sherriff’s hat to Alert Viewer Jerrod Pietrala for the info and follow-ups on this little-known series. Many thanks for all the details, Jerrod!